While the Obama administration’s dictum “Don’t do stupid stuff” may not have the cachet of “Speak softly and carry a big stick” it is nevertheless sound advice for the conduct of foreign policy, even sounder than the latter. It has more general scope as well.
When it comes to writing, for instance, the constraint of “Don’t write stupid stuff” would be well to implement. You could also save a lot of time if you applied the rule “Don’t read stupid stuff.” You can’t always follow the latter because it may only be post facto that you realize the author you have read did not comply with the former.
Here is a recent example. I have learned, as a general rule, that the op-ed pages of The New York Post are populated by writers who specialize in writing stupid stuff. Every once in a while, however, I check out the Post to make sure I am not over generalizing.
I had never read a column by Andrea Peyser before I read her Post op-ed piece of 8 August 2014, “Al Sharpton just isn’t my type.” I wasn’t surprised to find that it was full of really stupid stuff. Peyser says that Sharpton “is a bigot and a race-baiter who would sacrifice his most ardent fans-people of color [a racist assumption on Peyser’s part since Rev. Sharpton has many ardent fans of civil rights in all ethnic groups] in pursuit of personal fame and glory. Her evidence? She has none. It’s just her personal feelings at work. This is however the reason she gives for her statement: “it’s old news.” Really stupid.
She also maintains that Sharpton is “a private citizen who’s been handed unprecedented influence over New York City’s police by his ideological twin, Mayor Bill de Blasio” — the mayor also a bigoted race baiter? What is this “unprecedented influence?” As far as I can tell the NYPD does whatever it likes and it doesn’t pay much attention to what Sharpton wants them to do at all except for token public relations. That is why he has to lead rallies and demonstrations to demand changes.
Peyser thinks he has been granted this “unprecedented influence” because Mayor de Blasio invited him to be part of a round table discussion with himself and Police Commissioner William Bratton concerning the recent homicide of Eric Garner on Staten Island. During the discussion Sharpton told his “ideological twin” that he would be his “worst enemy” if the police target minorities for arrest. “Unprecedented influence,” “ideological twin”? Really stupid.
The real purpose in attacking Sharpton is to deflect attention from the actual issues. The medical examiner has declared Garner’s death a homicide — who is going to argue with Quincy? The NYPD has disproportionately made arrests in and harassed minority communities and is in need of more civilian control. The Post and other right-wing media prefer to attack personalities than to deal with the issues. Really stupid.
Peyser’s article stems from a phone conversation she had with Sharpton a few days before in which he told her, among other things, that he did not take attacks against him personally and that someday he and Peyser might even be friends.
That olive branch was quickly brushed aside. Peyser thought he was “vain” and “obsessed” and “wants to be liked”-“Even by me.” She says he isn’t her type. Slow down Andrea. The man was just trying to be polite. He definitely doesn’t go for your type. He’s not really stupid!
Photo: Rev. Al Sharpton speaks alongside Rabbi Michael Miller, second from left, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, third from left, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, center left, NYPD police commissioner Bill Bratton, right, following a multi-faith roundtable meeting Aug. 20, brought about by the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who was placed in an apparent chokehold by a police officer, The mayor said he believes the meeting can help a city gripped by protests and distrust of the police in some minority neighborhoods. John Minchillo/AP